Having taught swim lessons in municipal recreation, through the Red Cross, as well as in the YMCA, I have a good perspective on the different ways to teach.
There are literally hundreds of children I’ve taught to swim, and hundreds more under my supervision. Not only that, but I watched my own three kids being taught to swim.
Believe me; I know what works and what doesn’t.
Between the two—Red Cross or YMCA, I prefer the Y’s method of teaching. The main difference I’ve experienced is that the Y never forces a child to do what they don’t want to do. But they always accomplish the feat with encouragement, by watching others and trying it on their own time.
And yes, it can be more expensive—waiting for the child to decide he or she is ready. It may take more than one or two sessions. But it can be far worse….
One day a Y member and her 7 year old son, Russell, came in. She explained that she had taken Russell to a local swim school that had a reputation of turning out great swimmers really fast. The only problem was that the child was now mortally terrified of the water—after going to the swim school.
She requested private lessons, which we provided, but, necessarily at a higher cost than a regular class. We let Russell choose the swim teacher he wanted, and he chose my pool manager who he especially liked. It took over a year, of constant sessions, but he finally was able to swim with confidence.
Don’t get me wrong. Red Cross lessons are great—for the right child who’s ready to go underwater, or go into the deep end. They are all treated the same, though, and some just aren’t ready—like Russell. Every child is on his/her own schedule.
And when to start? When they’re six months old! Both the Red Cross and YMCA have the Baby and Me classes. I’ve never taught the Red Cross baby classes but the Y’s method is just to get them comfortable in and around the water—with their parent holding them. Again, they aren’t forced under, but some choose to go underwater.
Then at age 3, regular lessons can start. This is when they are the absolute easiest to teach! By the time they’re four or five they can easily be taught to swim front crawl one length of an Olympic size pool, and then return with the back stroke. And that’s without stopping except to turn around and change strokes. And some learn breaststroke.
So get your children comfortable in the water! Whether they can swim well or not, make sure they can at least float, front float and back float, and hopefully tread water. And I recommend a YMCA.